On February 13, 1910, the biggest news story in the Valley, at least according to the Shenandoah Herald in Woodstock, was Christina Shown's birthday party. Aunt Teeny's birthday was such a big deal that it warranted a lengthy front page article headlined, Hale and Hearty in Her 95th Year.
How she became so newsworthy is something of a mystery. After all, Teeny lived alone and far enough off the beaten path to be seldom seen by anyone. For 56 years, she had lived in a two-room cabin formerly used as a schoolhouse that she attended as a child. In all of her 95 years, she has never traveled outside the area in which she was born and never laid eyes on, much less used, a telephone or a phonograph. She has never seen an automobile and never ridden a train.
Aunt Teeny has little to do with “newfangled ways,” as she calls them. The same cooking utensils used by her mother and her mother's mother are still in use in her kitchen. Her greatest source of pleasure is spinning yarns and talking about the old days to anybody who will listen while puffing on a corn cob pipe. The article in the Herald reported that she had reduced three-quarters of a ton of tobacco to ashes since she first started smoking at age 10.
Her actual birth date was on January 29, but a snowstorm delayed the big doings until Saturday, February 20 when family and friends from the Shenandoah Valley made the trek to her cabin in the woods. They came in wagons, on horseback, and on foot along the road known as Orkney Grade to Mt. Clifton and then down a narrow path where the humble hut sat by Mill Creek.
So many well-wishers came that there were more people outside the cabin than on the inside. A large bonfire burned in the front yard, a welcome site to those who needed to warm themselves on this chilly winter morning. At least the sun was shining, and most of the snow had melted.
Teeny's son-in-law Buddy Boyd strummed an upbeat ditty on his banjo as the partiers lined up to bring a varied assortment of homemade gifts. Offerings included local favorites like summer sausage, scrapple, Virginia salt-cured ham, sauerkraut, beans, apples, yeast rolls, cakes, cookies, pies, and of course, lots of tobacco.
Moses Shown stood next to his mother to help direct the proceedings and to make sure that all the guests were properly acknowledged. His wife Mary organized the food as it arrived and saw to it that everyone got plenty to eat.
All the attention energized Aunt Teeny. Her raspy voice could be heard outside the cabin walls as she entertained her audience with colorful tales of her storied life. It was indeed a joyous event for the adults in attendance but not so for 12-year-old Mable Shown. There's just nothing here for a girl to do, she thought while warming by the bonfire and hoping her mother would eventually bring her a big piece of birthday cake. It's not that there weren't other children at the event. In fact, there were quite a few boys already making the best of their time together playing a very rowdy version of Tag-You're-It.
What Mable didn't know was that there was another youngster there, an old friend, who was trying to get up the nerve to talk to her. Charlie Polk took leave from the other boys after noticing Mable and climbed atop a woodpile. The last time he saw Mable was that humiliating day at the schoolhouse. “Would she still remember him?” Of greater concern was the brutal teasing he would get from the other boys if he struck up a conversation with a girl.
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